Colorado officials vow to fight Four Corners pollution
DENVER, Colorado ” Colorado’s governor and attorney general pledged Monday to work to reduce air pollution in the Four Corners region after a state lawmaker asked for help resolving a decades-old dispute over emissions from a power plant on American Indian land.
Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter and Republican Attorney General John Suthers told the federal Environmental Protection Agency that ozone problems in San Juan County, N.M., could be mitigated with pollution controls at the plant on the Navajo Reservation.
Colorado state Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, asked state officials for help last week, saying pollution has crossed into southwestern Colorado, causing health problems.
Tipton said a mustard-colored cloud shrouds parts of the area and said that’s unacceptable.
“Just as New Mexico would not accept toxic pollutants to be dumped by Colorado into the Rio Grande River, neither should Colorado allow avoidable pollutants to flow into our state from New Mexico,” Tipton said.
Ritter urged the EPA to reconsider its decision to permit the proposed Desert Rock power plant in northwestern New Mexico, and also asked the EPA to require the installation of emissions controls at the existing Four Corners Power Plant located nearby.
“It is past time that we cleaned up the Four Corners Power plant, one of the largest sources of air pollution in the country, so that we can reduce ozone, people can breath easier, and we can improve our western vistas towards what they used to be and should be,” Ritter said.
A spokesman for Arizona Public Service, one of the owners of the plant, didn’t immediately return a call on Monday.
Suthers said if the EPA designates northwestern New Mexico as a “non-attainment area” because of high ozone levels, it would be unfair to southwestern Colorado as well.
Designation as a non-attainment area can bring stricter rules and other sanctions.
The coal-fired Four Corners Power Plant is about 25 miles west of Farmington, N.M.
Colorado officials have expressed disappointment that the EPA decided to approve the proposed 1,500-megawatt, coal-fired Desert Rock Energy Facility on Navajo land about 30 miles southwest of Farmington.
In the letter to Carol Rushin, acting regional administrator for the EPA, Colorado officials said Desert Rock would be a significant new source of pollutants.
Last year, an ozone monitor at New Mexico’s Navajo Lake recorded ozone levels above federal standards. New Mexico officials say the reading was in error.